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Wisdom Teeth Extractions and What to Expect

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties. Sometimes these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned, but often they're misaligned and require removal. Impacted wisdom teeth never become fully functional, and the best way to manage the problems they cause is to remove the tooth. Here are some reasons why you may need to get your wisdom teeth removed:

    • Inflammation and infection: Wisdom teeth that are painless and seemingly unobtrusive can lead to periodontal disease, pain in the jaw, swelling in the jaw, inflamed and irritated gums, bleeding gums, and foul-smelling breath.

    • Overcrowding: When wisdom teeth erupt, they try to enter an already crowded area. With little room to move into, neighboring teeth are often pushed aside. The result is misalignment.

    • Damage to nearby teeth: Wisdom teeth can undo a straight smile and completely unravel years of dental work.

    • Cysts or tumors: Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to the development of cysts or tumors, which can damage the jawbone and require more extensive treatment.

    • Difficult to clean: Wisdom teeth are located at the back of the mouth, making them difficult to clean properly. This can lead to decay and gum disease.

Wisdom tooth removal is a common procedure in the United States. According to a recent study, approximately 80% of privately insured adults in the US have had their wisdom teeth removed by the age of 25. In fact, 10 million wisdom teeth are removed annually in the US. The frequency of impacted wisdom teeth is estimated to be between 11.6% to 29%. Problems tend to occur with increasing frequency after the age of 30, and the post-operative course can be prolonged, and there is a higher complication rate when impacted wisdom teeth are removed in your thirties, forties or beyond.

Dr. Hanna may recommend that your wisdom teeth be extracted even before problems develop. This is done to avoid a more painful or more complicated extraction that might have to be done a few years later. Removal is easier in young people when the wisdom teeth roots are not yet fully developed and the bone is less dense, but this procedure can be done at any age.  

Not removing your wisdom teeth can lead to several risks, including:

    ·   Infection: Wisdom teeth that are unable to emerge normally can become trapped (impacted) within your jaw, leading to infection or the formation of a cyst that can damage other teeth roots or bone support.

    ·  Damage to adjacent teeth: Wisdom teeth can push neighboring teeth out of the way, causing damage to them or crowding.

    ·  Pericoronitis: This is a bacterial infection that can occur when the wisdom tooth partially emerges from the gum, leaving a flap of gum tissue that can trap food and bacteria.

     ·  Jaw fracture: In rare cases, the pressure from impacted wisdom teeth can cause a fracture in the jaw.

     ·  Increased risk of gum disease: Wisdom teeth that are not removed can be difficult to clean properly, leading to an increased risk of gum disease.

It's important to note that not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed. If your wisdom teeth are healthy, positioned correctly, and able to be cleaned as part of your daily hygiene practices, then removal may not be necessary.

The process of removing wisdom teeth involves the following steps:

    1. Anesthesia: Your dentist or oral surgeon will administer anesthesia to numb the tooth and surrounding area. Depending on the complexity of the extraction and your comfort level, you may receive local anesthesia, sedation anesthesia, or general anesthesia.

    2. Incision: If the tooth hasn't come through the gum, a small cut (incision) will be made in the gum to access it. Asmal piece of the bone covering the tooth may also need to be removed.

    3. Tooth removal: Your dentist or oral surgeon will carefully loosen your wisdom tooth and lift it from its socket. Hey may need to divide your tooth into sections for easier removal. You shouldn't feel any pain during the procedure because the area will be numb. However, if you do feel pain, tell your dentist or oral surgeon so they can give you more anesthesia.

    4. Cleaning and stitches: After removing the tooth, Dr. Hanna will clean the area to make sure there’s no infection. They may place stitches to close the surgical site, if necessary. Stitches promote healing, but they aren't always necessary.

    5. Recovery: After the procedure, you will be given instructions on how to care for the extraction site. You may experience some bleeding, swelling, and pain, but these symptoms should subside within a few days to a week. Follow the instructions on what to eat, how to clean your mouth, and how to manage pain, and you’ll be the most likely to have a smooth and quick recovery.

This process may vary depending on the complexity of the extraction and your specific needs. Dr. Hanna will discuss the procedure with you and answer any questions you may have.

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